The Center for Creative Ecology

Environmental education for Tikkun Olam (healing our relationship with the world) with our hands, minds and hearts

Established in 1997, the Center for Creative Ecology (CfCE) developed from a growing desire on Kibbutz Lotan to reduce environmental impacts and to embrace a more sustainable way of life. From early ground-breaking initiatives in waste-management that served as a model for other communities throughout the country, to pioneering experiments in extreme desert organic food production and energy efficient construction using natural materials, the CfCE has become a world class training, research and demonstration center for capacity building in sustainability. Our focus is on quality, experiential and practical education in local organic food production, ecological building methods, appropriate technologies, permaculture design and community resilience that serves to inspire, motivate and empower people to build sustainable community and to take creative action for positive change towards social and environmental justice.

The CfCE won the Israel Ministry of the Environment’s Shield award in 2000 for its work in environmental education and was instrumental in Kibbutz Lotan receiving the prize for Ecovillage Excellence in 2006 from the Global Ecovillage Network for work in environmental education and outreach, waste management and ecological building.

The CfCE runs ongoing and tailor-made educational courses, trainings and workshops for all ages, and manages Kibbutz Lotan's Nature and Migratory Bird Reservethe Eco-Kef – Ecological Educational Park and the EcoCampus.

Environmental education for Tikkun Olam

Healing our relationship with the world with our hands, minds and hearts

Our mission:

Empowering individual change-makers and future leaders, to engage in creative action towards environmental sustainability and social justice in order to build healthy communities, organizations and businesses.

Our strategy:

To provide a world class training, research and demonstration center for capacity building for all age groups in local organic food production, ecological building methods, appropriate technologies, permaculture design and community resilience. 

Our aim:

• To instill a sense of wonder for nature and the environment, while developing awareness and knowledge of the global challenges being faced

• To influence individual and communal attitudes and decisions about lifestyle

• To empower change through the development of a bank of practical ideas and methods in order to encourage and support actions for the environment and for social and environmental justice

• To connect contemporary environmental thinking to a liberal, progressive Jewish perspective while celebrating diversity of all cultural backgrounds

The Green Apprenticeship

Join us for a 4 week practical training program in hand-on sustainable engineering, systems design and cooperative living. We’ll be learning about designing, building and running of sustainable projects, while linking together ecological, social, economic and cultural aspects into a unified whole. We’ll develop skills through hands-on work in our environmental education center, organic gardens, and alternative/natural building projects. We live in the EcoCampus – beautiful hand crafted domes – in Kibbutz Lotan, a desert oasis. At the end of the course participants receive an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certification.

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Meet the Team

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Mike Kaplin

Co- founder and Director

Mike Kaplin , has a B.T.E.C (Business and Technical Education Council) Diploma in furniture studies – design/craft, London College of Furniture. He also has a B.T.E.C Higher Diploma in furniture studies , design/craft, London College of Furniture. Organic Growers Certificate from the Israeli Organic Organization and Permaculture Design Certificate with teacher/author Graham Bell at Kibbutz Gezer.

Mike is the Co- founder and Director of the The Center for Creative Ecology. He is one of the first Permaculturists in Israel. He has lead numerious projects and also become the pioneer by building the first recyling area in Israel, building natural buildings which effected to legilise the natural building regulations. He is Initiator of turning the voluntary ecological work into a formal kibbutz work branch and of the kibbutz decision to support the building of an educational eco-park. He is also the Initiator and coordinator of work/study program “Green Apprenticeship” an in-depth practical, ecological, communal, Israeli experience.Prior to these roles Mike was at the Construction team of Kibbutz Lotan and Manager of the Metalwork shop, at Kibbutz Lotan.

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Alex Cicelsky

Co-founder, Core Faculty Member

Alex Cicelsky is a co-founder of the Center for Creative Ecology (CfCE) and a founder of Kibbutz Lotan. He grew up in New York State, studied international agriculture at Cornell University's school of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and following establishment of Kibbutz Lotan, he graduated from the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment with a degree in Soil and Water Sciences and Environmental Quality in Agriculture. In the early 1990’s Alex was leading environmental education programming at science museums which served as a driver for establishing the CfCE. During his tenure as Kibbutz Lotan’s Planning Director, Alex coordinated and designed many of the community’s unique buildings and strove to make the conventionally built facilities energy efficient. Alex completed his MSc. at Ben Gurion University's Department of Desert Architecture and Urban Planning / Institutes for Desert Research and has published his research on development of energy efficient building for extreme climates in conjunction with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. He consults in Israel and abroad, and lectures on Permaculture and community planning, sustainable design technologies, passive solar design of energy efficient buildings, and environmental ethics at the CfCE, universities and professional seminars worldwide.

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Mark Naveh

Co-founder, Core Faculty Member

Mark Naveh was born in the UK in 1965, immigrating with his family to Sydney, Australia in 1979. He received a BSc from the University of Sydney where he majored in ecology, and supplemented this with an Honours degree in marine ecology from the James Cook University of North Queensland. In 1989 he moved to Israel, joining Kibbutz Lotan in the southern Arava. Mark received a Masters degree in Education for Sustainability from South Bank University of London that included a research project and dissertation entitled “Common Paths: A Jewish-Arab coexistence project between two schools in Israel. A case study in peace education”. Mark served as General Secretary of the kibbutz in the years 2008-11. Since 2000 he has been a senior staff member and director of education in Lotan's Center for Creative Ecology, teaching and facilitating groups of children, youth and adults and developing programming around themes of community and sustainability. Mark is married to Doria and has three children.

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Maya Galimidi

Global Business Developer

Maya was born in Turkey and graduated from Jewish Highschool in Istanbul (UOML).  She took a double major in Public Relations and Management of Performing Arts at Istanbul Bilgi University. She moved to London, while living in London she worked in New York City to produce the content for Wall Street Capital Markets conferences. She continued her career in Healthcare and Government sector conferences as a Content Manager. She moved to an International Event Management role arranging meetings and congresses in 30 different countries, and worked with politicians such as George W. Bush and Collin Powell. She moved back to Turkey and worked for various sector mega conferences. Now she is very interested in ecology and humanitarian affairs, and wishes to direct her efforts towards serving nature and humanity. She is an International Ambassador of Global Ecovillage Network. With all her experience, Maya is now the Global Business Developer for Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology to bring associations, governing bodies, academic world, students and businesses from all around the world together to learn sustainable living techniques to care for the earth, its resources, each other, and to open new visions in this field.

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Eran Meiri

Core Faculty Member

Grew up in a kibbutz in the north of Israel surrounded by springs, studied Geographic at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and moved to the desert to research flash flood. Met his wife in Kibbutz Lotan and they have a sweet child. Happy to be part of the Eco team.

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Deborah Dell'ariccia

Core Faculty Member

Debby Dell'ariccia was born and grew up in Italy where she was active in the youth movement Hashomer Hatzair. Debby moved to Israel in 2007, studied informal education at Beit Berl college and become a Kundalini Yoga teacher in the summer 2013. After a meaningful experience as volunteer in India Debby moved to Kibbutz Lotan in April 2014. Debby became a member of Lotan's Center for Creative Ecology staff in August 2014 and since then she’s been facilitating groups of participants to the Green Apprenticeship. During the G.A. she leads the participants through group dynamics, team building and creative activities. She also teaches them Kundalini Yoga. For the last two years she has been Group Coordinator for young Israelis doing their “year of volunteering service” at Lotan. She loves to prepare and enjoy Italian food at the Tea House and with friends and to spend time in company of good people, swimming in the sea or practicing some Kundalini Yoga.

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Daniel Burstyn

Core Faculty Member

Since 1990, Rabbi Daniel has made his home as a member of Kibbutz Lotan. Daniel holds a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies through Boston’s Hebrew College, where his research focus was on Judaism and the Environment, and was ordained Rabbi through ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. He holds certificates in both Permaculture and Spiritual Direction. On the kibbutz, Daniel has worked in jobs from cooking to childcare, from editing a local newspaper to grounds keeping. In addition to teaching in the Kibbutz's Center for Creative Ecology, he currently manages the landscaping department and represents the kibbutz on the regional council.

Volunteers

Each year we have a team of volunteers who believe in the work of ecology and help us with our Eco Kef, Organic Garden, EcoCampus, tourism, documentation, branding, education programmes. We are grateful for their contribution.

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THE

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The Ecological Campus (EcoCampus) is a prototype model for sustainable development and offers residents daily opportunities to experience living together as a micro community, creating an integral part of the educational experience. The mission of the EcoCampus is to teach and empower residential program participants to live an ecological lifestyle, to maintain a low carbon footprint and to advance environmentally appropriate housing and technologies.

The housing units are created from geodesic dome frames, straw bales and earth plaster. The straw bales and earth plaster together create super insulated structures with thick interior mass for temperature stability. In winter months the buildings are passively heated by sunlight entering the southern windows, where the heat is then stored in the walls and the floors. Nightime ventillation in the spring and fall cools the buildings which remain comfortable all day when the window shades are closed. In the summer the energy efficient domes out-perform all of the conventional buildings in the region by using considerably less electricity for cooling. The neighborhood is Carbon Negative as the solar panels produce more electricity than is needed to run the the air conditioners and all the other applicances. Cooking gas is methane, produced by our unique biogas digester from kitchen scraps. The biogas system was built by our students and international experts Read More on Solar CITIES... 

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Why Straw & Mud & Geodesic Domes?

Straw bales are a renewable agricultural waste product that is readily available. Earth plasters are a local and abundant resource of the Arava Valley. Together, these materials produce walls that are energy efficient, fire proof (Israeli Standards Institute approved) and carbon neutral (due to sequestered carbon in the straw). The geodesic framework is hand-fabricated and engineer approved to survive earthquakes.

The EcoCampus was built by students and continues to be developed today. Students partake in the construction and daily maintenance of the EcoCampus and there are a variety of opportunities available for new infrastructure projects throughout the year.

Star Gazing

Our new ongoing mud project is being built step by step with our Green Apprenticeship students. The star gazing area is an important addition to the EcoCampus facilities. It comprises of a yoga meditation platform made from old tires, rocks and mud. A camp fire with benches made from old plastic boxes glued together and covered with a mud plaster. The star gazing platforms are also made from tires, non-organic trash covered with mud. Green apprentices enjoy evenings or around the camp fire or lying on mattresses for an incredible panoramic clean clear view of the desert night sky full of the stars and planets.

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How much clean electricity did we make today?

Earth Healthy Houses for hosting students from around the world

Pioneers

The Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology was established by pioneers in the field of sustainability in Israel.

During the 1990’s, some members of Kibbutz Lotan started to think about how to reduce ecological footprint and environmental impacts in the community. With very little being done at the time in terms of waste management and sustainability in Israel, there was a need to innovate local solutions.

The pioneer projects that have been initiated over the years on Kibbutz Lotan were led by Mike Kaplin, founder and director of the Center for Creative Ecology. Together with Alex Cicelsky, co-founder and core faculty member of the Center, a series of projects were instigated and developed with the help of volunteers, Green Apprenticeship students and members and children of Kibbutz Lotan.

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Pioneer Projects

Kibbutz Lotan Nature and Migratory Bird Reserve:

We purchased degraded land adjacent to Kibbutz Lotan and developed a park for viewing native and migratory flora and fauna. The bird reserve is part of the International Bird Park Without Borders developed in Israel by the Israel Society for the Protection of Nature, Jewish National Fund - Keren Kayemet Leyisrael & the International Centre for the Study of Bird Migration. Together with our partners we developed the niches in the reserve, and designed the unique bird viewing hides constructed from recycled household waste and earth materials.

Design & Construction Team:

Mike Kaplin, Alex Cicelsky, Michael Livni, Center for Creative Ecology, Dan Alon, Arieh Rachmimov, Ofer Cohen, Kfir Saadah, Yosef Amara, Amir Gadnaor & many hard working volunteers

1995
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1996
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Organic farming techniques are researched in the Gan Bayit – Home Garden

We are successful with producing marketable vegetables in the Southern Arava desert by creating soil with a high nutrient and organic matter content from composting municipal and agricultural organic waste, irrigated with brackish water, and using no pesticides, herbicides or industrial fertilisers. 

Construction using recycled municipal waste

The Center for Creative Ecology leads building projects of play grounds, bus stops and community building while training artisans who work throughout the country.

1996 - today
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2000
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Straw bale extensions on Lotan houses.

Design & Construction Team:

Alex Cicelsky, Mike Kaplin, Center for Creative Ecology students and volunteers.

Ministry of Environment's first community recycling collection center is established on Lotan

Design & Construction Team:

Design and Project Managers: Alex Cicelsky & Mike Kaplin,

Artwork: Daphna Yalon

Construction: Center for Creative Ecology Art

2000
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2003
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Watsu (Water-Shiatsu) Aquatic Bodywork Therapy:

We repurpose a greenhouse frame to hand-craft the building from earth plasters, adobe bricks, recycled materials and straw bales.

Design & Construction Team:

Hidai Levi-Shaked, Alex Cicelsky, Mike Kaplin, Daphna Yalon, Kfir Saada, Center for Creative Ecology volunteers.

Training workshop with residents of Wadi El Na’am – an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev

2003
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The EcoCampus is built

The EcoCampus housing units are super energy efficient and earthquake resistant, using a steel pipe geodesic framework and earth plastered straw bales. The combination of insulated walls, thermal mass interior walls and placement of shutter-able insulated windows provides high building performance at a low environmental cost.

Design & Construction Team:

Alex Cicelsky, Mike Kaplin & Center for Creative Ecology staff, students and volunteers. Engineering: Ofer Cohen.

2005-2008
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2006 & 2012
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Earth plastered straw bales and light straw blocks receive fire code approval from the Standards Institute of Israel

Research & Construction Team

2006  - Straw bale and plaster testing,

Director: Alex Cicelsky Construction Team: Alex Cicelsky, Mike Kaplin, Israel Piperberg

Funding: Amutat Tzel Hatamar

2012 - Light straw blocks,

Co-directed: Alex Cicelsky & Bottz Ltd.

Construction: Bottz Ltd. Sivan Sofer, Kfir Saadah, Dana Dweck Funding: Amutat Tzel Hatamar & Bottz Ltd.

Israel's first Grid Connected PV system on Solar Tea House

Design & Construction Team

Design and Project Managers: Alex Cicelsky & Mike Kaplin, Engineering: Ofer Cohen, Architecture: Ron Rosen & Tal Torten, Construction: TOP Hanegev, Funding: Israel Tourism Development Corporation, Amutat Tzel Hatamar – Kibbutz Lotan, PV system: Solarpower LTD, Alon Tamari.

2007
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2007
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Public Composting Toilets:

We development a unique batch system for continuous use of odourless, pathogen safe composting toilets that produces humus using ‘off the shelf’ and repurposed materials.

Design & Construction Team

 Alex Cicelsky & Mike Kaplin

President Shimon Peres visits us following showcasing of our work at the President’s Conference

We development a unique batch system for continuous use of odourless, pathogen safe composting toilets that produces humus using ‘off the shelf’ and repurposed materials.

Design & Construction Team

 Alex Cicelsky & Mike Kaplin

2010
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2013
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We’re chosen to be the Southern AICAT – Arava International Center for Agricultural Training Center

Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology facilitates the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network’s GEN-Israel

2014
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2015
Design & Construction Team

Design – Alex Cicelsky & Mike Kaplin,

Engineering – Ofer Cohen & Vladimir Trava,

Construction – Hamachsan L’Miktzoan (Lidor Maimon) & TOP Perfect (Salah Abujama)

 

We celebrate our 50th GA cohort and over 800 graduates of the Green Apprenticeship Permaculture course

2017
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True pioneers are fuelled by their vision of how a new world could be, and dare to take on what has never been done before. Now, when so few people have any vision at all of the future, this pioneering spirit embodies the kind of leadership so deeply needed on the planet.

If you would like to be part of the pioneering spirit, please get involved in our education programs, consultancy, partnering with us or to visit us.

Awards

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2000

Minister of Environment Volunteer Service Award for our community recycling programme and education outreach.

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2006

Global Ecovillage Network Excellence Award for the work of Palestinian and Jewish Youth

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2008

Composting Toilet Award by Israel Permaculture Association